It’s Game Time…
If you’ve ever been to a professional sporting event, you’re familiar with the beginning of every game. It’s when the lights go out, the music goes up, and the teams are introduced to the crowd. Living near Chicago, a die hard sports town, I get the treat of some of the best produced sporting events in the country. My all time favorite and most memorable was, of course, seeing the Chicago Bulls in the early 90’s at the old Chicago stadium.
Golden State and the Cavs have been exciting and all, but they don’t hold a candle to the Chicago Bulls in their heyday. Going to see Michael Jordan lead his team is something I’ll never forget. Every game started with an amazing theatrical introduction. They brought the whole team out during this opening ceremony. But special attention was always given to the starting lineup. The 5 key players that make up the core of the team are always the highlight.
There are other players who see floor time, but it’s these 5 on whose shoulders the game will rest. Each play, substitution, and game time decision starts with this group. Even decisions made off the court are based on the starting 5. Who does the team draft? Who do they trade? Who gets cut? Who is needed on the bench? All those decisions and more are made with those 5 key players in mind.
When you look across the league, there are plenty of teams who don’t have a strong starting 5. They lean on 1 or 2 all stars while the rest of the team is in a constant state of flux. You rarely see these teams in a championship game. There are also teams with no all stars, but instead have 9 or 10 “solid” players. Without a strong core and leadership, these teams also tend to flounder and end up missing the post season.
There is something inherently effective about building your team around 5 solid producers. Each has their role. Each brings something to the team that the others don’t. They all compliment one another and their sum is far greater than their individual parts.
This is exactly how I think we should look at the discs we carry. It’s with this strategy in mind that we start to build our perfect bags. Regardless of how many “players” we have or want, it’s critical that we start with just a core group and build out from there. It’s important that this starting group compliment each other. It’s necessary that whatever situation comes up during your round, one of your team members can rise to the occasion.
How Big is Your Team???
If you’ve read any of the previous posts in this series, you’ll know that I’m a strong proponent of a small team. I’ve written those articles in an earnest effort to persuade you to think the same way. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…
For those looking to build a solid bag, figuring out your starting lineup is essential. It all starts with determining how many players on your team are starters. As with many other things in life, this number will vary from player to player. To make it simpler, though, I think most people fall into one of three categories. They manage one of three types of teams. The off season, regular season, and playoff.
Put on Your GM Hat…
When the pros get together to play in the off season, it’s common to see them playing 3 on 3 pickup games. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it allows each of them to play more of a role than they normally do. The jobs assigned to each member of a 5 man squad are now split 3 ways. Each player is required to do more. It’s a great way to stay sharp.
Once they roll into the regular season, it’s back to the normal 5 man group. Each person falls into a role that adds to the team as a whole. Those roles are smaller in scope than when on the 3 man squad, but that allows each of them to be better at their given assignment. Even if a team has a weak bench, these 5 can still carry the day on most occasions.
Once a team knows it has a great chance at the post season, it’s common for a few personnel moves to be made. A great GM will try to add a couple more strong players to help them with their playoff push. It’s now that a team’s starting 5 in any game comes from a central group of 6-7 primary players.
I think that the core of any perfectly built bag starts in the same way. In a previous article I talked about using an additive approach to bag building. Starting with just a few discs and then adding more when two conditions are met. One, the player has reached a high level of skill with each of the discs currently carried. Two, there is a shot that the current assortment of discs can’t cover.
A lot of people out there recommend that we start with just one disc. There are folks who make a case for starting with just a putter. There are others that push for starting with a neutral/stable midrange disc. For me, I don’t think that either of those is realistic. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a HUGE fan of single disc rounds. When it comes down to learning your discs well, few tools can serve you as well the single disc round. You should do those. Often.
But as far as building a bag goes there are few, if any, people who will have the discipline to start with just one disc. If you do, that’s awesome. I don’t and neither do most of the people I know. So let’s live in the world that is for a moment instead of the world that should be. Disc golf needs to be fun first. I believe that starting with a few discs helps that. 3 discs is few enough to allow growth with each one. 3 allows you to gain proficiency without distraction. 3 also can cover most needed shots. Rarely will the player find themselves on the course completely unable to cover a particular line.
Is it a complete bag? No, it’s a starting point. Moving to a 5 disc starting lineup would be the next goal. At 5 discs, we can play almost any course and be happy. We can cover 85-90% of the shots we need. As a recreational disc golfer, we could get by on a 5 disc bag for a very long time. In fact, we could do more than just get by. We could be competitive and play extremely well with just those 5 discs.
But as we learn those 5 discs and start to maximize their potential, we would realize the need for just a couple more. The missing 10-15% of shots would start to stick out. As good as we got with that starting 5, we would at some point see the need to go to 7.
Moving to a 7 disc starting lineup means you have 95-98% of all possible shots covered. Unless a particular course or condition dictated, there would be little reason to go beyond 7.
These Are Your Starters…
I can feel some of you squirming. You are already preparing your arguments in favor of certain discs. You are ready and able to justify why you have that 8th, 9th, 20th, and 30th disc in your bag. I’ve been there and I get it. I really do. Here’s what you need to keep in mind…
These 7 discs are your starters. They do not make up your entire team in the long run. There will always be a place for role players on the bench. I’m going to try to talk you out of needing 20-30 of them, but I don’t think that ending up with 10-15 discs in your bag is a bad thing. Eventually.
The point I’m trying to drive home is that most of your throws and most of your scoring can be done with a core group of 5-7 discs. With that in mind, doesn’t it make sense to start building your perfect bag with just those discs? Doesn’t it make sense to, at least for a while, remove all the other riff raff from your bag? Why not take the time to become deadly with this core group? Why not make the effort to learn them intimately?
And most importantly, why not take the time to make sure that each of those starting players is the right player to begin with? Maybe a disc you think is a starter really isn’t. Maybe another player would be much more capable in its place. Too often we waste a lot of time trying to fill the bench roles while neglecting to make sure that our core is what it should be.
It doesn’t matter who is on your bench if your starting lineup sucks. If you are not proficient with your starters, the rest of the bag doesn’t matter. If you haven’t taken the time to draft the right players in the first place, that’s a huge issue.
You’ll Get There Eventually…
It’s time to make sure you are building on a solid foundation. It’s time to go down to a three disc bag. It’s time to make sure those three players are the right ones for your team. It’s time to spend some quality rounds with them. It’s time to learn them at a level you didn’t know was possible. What does that mean? In my experience, it takes a minimum of 20-30 rounds and quite a few field work sessions with any given disc before you can start to feel like you might be getting to know it. This is not the time to rush. Play with just 3 until you are 110% confident you have gotten all you can out of each one. Play until you know for sure that each has earned a starting job.
Then, when you’ve done that, it’s time to add a couple more. Not 10 more, a couple more. It’s time to finalize your lineup for the regular season. And then it’s time to ride through the entire season with only those 5. You have to put in the work. Through ups and downs, grip locks and early releases. You and those 5 need to become one with each other. And if you do that then maybe, just maybe, you can head for the playoffs. And keep in mind, the playoffs only come after a full season of play. Again, there is no rush. Patience and hard work will be well rewarded in this process.
Once you’re there, go pick up those two extras that will help you win the finals. If you’re lucky, then at the end of the season you’ll have built the start of a dynasty. You will have signed long term contracts with the 6-7 discs that helped you get your first ring.
And that’s about how long this takes if you play a lot. A whole season. Yep, a whole season. To hone in on 7 discs that make up the core of your perfect bag takes time. I’ve been playing with just 7 discs for almost a year now. I’ve only signed long term deals with 4 of them. I have no intention of moving past 7 until 7 long term contracts are in place. It would be a waste of time. It would make the whole process take even longer.
On top of that, once I sign my 7 and put the franchise tag on them, I won’t let myself eyeball the free agent market any more. Replacing or changing them will be off the table.
It’s the Journey, Not the Destination….
As with most things in life, the magic of this lies in the process. If you go through your disc golf life hoping to luck into the perfect bag, it’s just not going to happen. It’s not something that’s a shopping trip away. It takes work. It takes patience. It takes time.
The great thing about it, though, is that it leaves you a much better disc golfer for having done it. I can promise you that if you devote enough time to a small number of discs, you will make leaps in your game you have previously only hoped for.
It’s not just slimming down your bag. It’s the work you put into doing it that matters most.
Do you know what your starting 3, 5, or 7 will be? You might be able to fill those slots with discs you’ve been playing with for years. You might need to add some fresh blood to your team. That’s going to be the topic of our next post in this series. There I plan to recommend what types of discs make up your new starting lineup. And I’ll finally break out some specific disc recommendations that can fill those slots. If you don’t want to miss anything, make sure and subscribe to the blog by entering your email below.
If you can’t wait for our next article, make sure and check out our friends over at the DG Puttheads where they have some input on what your star player should be and tell you what is the best disc golf putter.
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